Dubito ergo sum

We indeed recognize in ourselves the image of God, that is, of the supreme Trinity. For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Moreover, in these three things no true-seeming illusion disturbs us.

Without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in believing that I am? For it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am. And, consequently, neither am I deceived in knowing that I know. For, as I know that I am, so I know this also, that I know.

St. Augustine – Of the Image of the Supreme Trinity in Human Nature. The City of God XI, 26

Everything but a Feeling

LichtenbergWhen at different periods in life one speculates about solipsism (which considers all material bodies as nothing more than just our ideas), it usually happens as follows:

  1. First, as boys, we laugh at the absurdity of this idealism.
  2. A little bit later, this theory seems to us witty and presumable; we discuss it eagerly with people who in terms of age or education, are still in the first period.
  3. At a more mature age, we consider it to be very accurate, we annoy ourselves and others with it, but we think it is unworthy of disproving and against nature. Man believes that it is not worth brooding over it, because it seems to him that he had thought enough about it.
  4. In the end, however, after deeper deliberation this idealism becomes the truth quite invincible for him.

Please only think that even if there are any items outside of our mind, we know nothing about their objective reality. Everything we receive is solely through our impressions and ideas. The belief that these impressions and ideas are caused in our mind by external objects, is after all nothing more than just our idea again. There is no way to overcome idealism, since we would always be only idealists, even if there were material objects around us, because we could know absolutely nothing of the essence of these objects.

Everything is but a feeling; knowledge of external things would be a contradiction: man cannot go beyond himself. By judging that we perceive material external objects, we are clearly in the wrong, because we only see ourselves, i.e. our imagination. Nothing in the world can we know except ourselves and except changes which occur in us. Also, we cannot feel for someone else or as them, as we say sometimes: we only feel for ourselves. This sentiment seems strange, but on closer deliberation ceases to be such. No one loves a father, mother, wife and children, but only loves pleasant feelings that these people cause; these feelings flatter either our pride or our self-love; we love ourselves, i.e. ourselves in someone, but not that someone. It cannot be otherwise, anyone who denies this assertion, does not understand it.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Vermischte Schriften

Tat Tvam Asi

In studying the Perennial Philosophy we can begin either at the bottom, with practice and morality; or at the top, with a consideration of metaphysical truths; or, finally, in the middle, at the focal point where mind and matter, action and thought have their meeting place in human psychology.

The lower gate is that preferred by strictly practical teachers men who, like Gautama Buddha, have no use for speculation and whose primary concern is to put out in men’s hearts the hideous fires of greed, resentment and infatuation. Through the upper gate go those whose vocation it is to think and speculate the born philosophers and theologians. The middle gate gives entrance to the exponents of what has been called “spiritual religion” the devout contemplatives of India, the Sufis of Islam, the Catholic mystics of the later Middle Ages…

Based upon the direct experience of those who have fulfilled the necessary conditions of such knowledge, this teaching is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula, tat tvam asi (‘That art thou’); the Atman, or immanent eternal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being is to discover the fact for himself, to find out Who he really is.

Aldous Huxley – The Perennial Philosophy

In Captivity of Habits

Pure experience informs us about permanent sequences of facts; but does not tell us that one fact results from the other. If you pull the trigger of a shotgun, you will hear a shot; but what we really find is that there has been a shot after pulling the trigger, not that it arose from, not that was its effect. How it happens, that one fact follows the other, is not given by the experience; so if we have to stick closely to the experience, we must renounce causal connections, and be content with just setting permanent sequences. It was the most unexpected and unique thesis by Hume.

There is, therefore, no basis to recognize causal relationships as necessary: ​​neither rational, nor experiential. And yet in life and in science we always recognize them, and we expect that when the cause happened, inevitably too the effect will happen. Such attitude of mind requires explanation; it was, in turn, a new issue for Hume: why, although we have no basis for this, we recognize the existence of causal relationships?

We do this because we rely on previously gathered experience and we move this experience ahead. So far, after pulling the trigger of a shotgun, the shot fell, so we think it will continue to be the same. But in doing so, we no longer stay within the limits of pure experience, but we cross them. These two sentences are by no means equivalent: “I found that this object here is accompanied by such a result” and “I expect that other objects, which, as far as we know them, are similar to that, will be accompanied by similar effects.” From one of these sentences to the other we would go only through reasoning, but is there such reasoning? Do we have the right to extend into the future our previously gathered experience?

There is no reasoning, which entitles to extend the existing experience into the future. There is no contradiction in the assumption that although certain event had some result, a similar event will have a different result. Moving the experience to the future is not done by reasoning, but by a factor of a different kind altogether; the conclusions from cause to effect are not a matter of reasoning. These are the matter of habit.

Constant repetition of certain relations changes nothing in the nature of these relations, but changes our attitude towards them. In the mind, it produces the tendency to expect further repetitions. Since we are used that after pulling the trigger, a shot falls, we think it will continue to be so. But the basis for this conclusion is purely subjective. Although this inclination has a certain objective basis, namely regularity in the occurrence of the relations previously observed; but precisely this basis alone is insufficient to draw conclusions. The actual basis for the conclusion is not objective, but subjective, and it is emotional, not conceptual. The inference here is an act of faith, not the act of knowledge.

The sense of necessity is not the basis for our conclusions, but their outcome; the greater it is, the more conclusions we have drawn. The search for causal conclusions is the instinct that nature has given us. It gave us the instinct without giving the understanding. We conclude about future things without knowing the basis of our conclusions, just as we can move without the knowledge of muscles. But instinct is not knowledge.

Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz – History of Philosophy Volume II Modern Philosophy until 1830.

Metaphysics and Religion

If man has ever emerged from the whole of nature (that belongs to his essence, is an act of becoming man) and made it his “subject”, he must somehow turn himself backwards with trembling and ask, “So where do I stand myself? What is my place then?” Indeed, he no longer can say: “I am a part of the world, I am surrounded by it”, because the active being of spirit and human person surpasses the forms of existence of this “world” in time and space.

So, in turning, he looks somehow into nothingness; in this view he discovers the possibility of “absolute nothingness” and that prompts him to question further: “Why is there any world at all? why and how do «I» exist?” Having discovered the randomness of the world, man could behave in two ways:

  1. He could become amazed at it and activate his cognizant spirit to capture the absolute, and become part of it – this is a beginning of every metaphysics; in history has not it appeared until very late and only among very few people.
  2. But he could also, caused by unsurmountable desire to save – not only his individual being, but above all, his entire group – based upon and with huge surplus of fantasy, which, unlike animals, exists in man from the very beginning, populate that sphere of existence with any characters, and through worship and ritual shelter himself under the cover of their power, to get from “behind” some little care and assistance; because in the basic act of alienation from nature and objectification of her – while developing his own being and self-awareness – he seemed to be sinking into pure nothingness. Overcoming of nihilism in the form of such rescue, such support, we call religion. In our philosophical reflections on the relationship of man to the highest principles we must reject all similar ideas.

For us, the basic relationship between man and the Ground of Being consists in the fact that in man – who as such, both as a spiritual and alive being, is only a partial center of the spirit and momentum of “what is real by itself” – I say: in man this Ground is directly comprehended and realized.

The old thought of Spinoza and Hegel and many others is: primary existence becomes self-aware in man himself in the same act in which man sees himself rooted in it. The place of this self-realization, we say: of this self-deification, which is sought by ‘being by himself’ and because of which becoming he accepted the world as “history” – is the man, the human self and the human heart. They are the only place of becoming God that is available to us.

You could tell me, and I was actually told, that man cannot stand unready, becoming God. My response to that is that metaphysics is not an insurance company for the weak people, requiring support. The absolute being does not exist to support man, to complement his ordinary weaknesses and needs.

Max Scheler – The Human Place in the Cosmos

The Problem of Meaning

The difficulties associated with “the arguments for the truth” of Christianity have given me sleepless nights; most of our core beliefs must be taken on faith. Significant intellectual difficulties, faced by a believer or an alleged believer, are not posed by the problem of proof, but by the problem of meaning. Statements specifically religious seem to me without any meaning.

A. N. Prior

Paradise

Christianity says, I believe, that sound doctrines are all useless. That you have to change your life. Christianity is not a doctrine, not, I mean, a theory about what has happened and will happen to the human soul, but a description of something that actually takes place in human life.

L. Wittgenstein